Federal Employees News Digest

Guidance released on CoVID-19

The federal government released its first detailed guidance on working amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which comes with 60 reported cases documented in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The guidance comes in the form of a March 3 memo from Office of Personnel Management Director Dale Cabaniss, but it represents interagency collaboration that includes the CDC, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others.

So far the effect on the federal workplace includes the closure of a Citizenship and Immigration Services field office in Seattle. The facility was closed because an employee visited with an infected patient in a nearby nursing home. Additionally, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie told lawmakers at a March 4 hearing that one veteran is being treated for coronavirus at the agency's Palo Alto facility in California. Additionally, the Department of Defense, the Peace Corps and others have put in place some new guidance about non-essential travel.

The memo alerts agencies to include telework options in their continuity of operations plans, "to ensure that telework has been fully incorporated and that as many employees as possible have been identified as telework employees in the plan, and are telework capable (or 'telework ready')."

The memo also asked agency heads to reduce non-essential employee travel "as appropriate" and noted that feds who have been in countries designated by the Department of State as level 4 (meaning do-not-travel) should self-isolate for 14 days after returning to the U.S.

Foreign travel is being handled on a country-by-country basis. As of now, OPM is not asking feds to cancel pre-planned conferences that don't fall within areas that have a level 4 travel advisory.

Right now, the Facilities Security Committee housed at the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has a lead role in planning how to control access to federal workplaces. In addition, each facility has a designated official with the authority to put new access standards in place. According to the guidance, facilities managers will be tracking recommendations from federal and state health officials on controlling the spread of COVID-19.

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